Metro Diner recently opened up at 2132 SW 34th Street in the Winn-Dixie plaza.
Hailing from our neighbors in Jacksonville, where they’ve racked up multiple awards for best breakfast, they marched into Gainesville with some serious balls. See, they decided to open up their eatery right next door to another breakfast spot, Bagels Unlimited. For that, I extend to them what the kids would call “mad props.” Do not be fooled by its formica tabletops, Perkins-esque color scheme, or the row of photos with King Douche Guy Fieri from when the original Jacksonville location was featured on Diners Drive-In’s and Dives. While it’s not fancy by any stretch of the imagination, this is good ol’ fashioned artery-clogging diner food, perfect for those Sunday morning hangovers.
At first glance, the menu appears to be a bit on the pricey side. Fried chicken and waffles (chicken, Belgian waffles, strawberry butter, and served with a mix of Louisiana hot sauce and syrup) for $14.99 seems a bit much until you realize you quite literally get half a chicken. It’s not some Treon Harris-sized chicken either, you get the Will Grier of chickens. Oh, and I’m going to go ahead and newly crown it the best fried chicken in town. Ridiculously crispy and flavorful breading that coats some really juicy big pieces of chicken won me over. The “Creamed Chipped Beef” is a gigantic heart-attack inducing pile of cream sauce and thinly-sliced beef over a bed of toast, hashbrowns, or homefries for $8.49. It’s probably the best hangover food item I dream up. The “Yo Hala on the Square” (two big slices of challah bread stuffed with bananas, brown sugar, cream cheese, and hazelnut syrup with a blueberry and strawberry compote on top) is delicious for $11.99. It also prompted the ever-so-eloquent Guy Fieri to mutter the now-infamous phrase, “Activate the bananas!”
To say the portions at this restaurant are huge would be an understatement. Seriously, they’re entirely way too huge for a normal sized human. Luckily, most everything on the menu can be ordered in half-sizes. Which is good news, because there’s some serious gluttony happening here. There are the classic egg breakfasts with your choice of meat, and then you’ve got other staples like waffles, pancakes, French toast, and Huevos Rancheros. For dinner, you’ll find favorites like Shrimp & Grits ($15.49), Chicken Pot Pie ($7.99 or $8.99 for jumbo), their apparently famous Meatloaf ($9.49), and some gigantic salads. The menu is rather large, so I can’t quite cover it all.
Of course, no gluttonous menu would be complete without the appearance of the classic Monte Cristo. Which…if you’re unfamiliar, is a sourdough sandwich stuffed with turkey, ham, cheddar, and American cheese that’s then deep-fried, covered in powdered sugar, and served with raspberry preserves for $11.99. There’s also the J.C.’s Vortex Burger (pictured) that I’m guessing is a tribute to the famously gargantumongous burgers at The Vortex in Atlanta. A half-pound patty is topped with a lettuce slaw (shredded lettuce, pickles, and mayo) between two grilled cheese sandwiches that are made with American cheese, tomatoes, cherry wood smoked bacon, and served with a side for $12.99.
This is a place that unapologetically serves big portions of food coma-inducing food that’s actually delicious. It’s your typical waitresses in t-shirts, open-kitchen diner that seats about 100, doesn’t do fancy, and epitomizes the glory of American appetites. In many ways, it’s not unlike my first love, 43rd Street Deli. If you’re looking for bang-for-your-buck, this is a pretty good bet. It’s the kind of place that I would frequent if I were 19 years old again with the metabolism of a trash compactor. Alas, I am now relegated to half-portions. In any case, they are definitely worth the visit. If you’re the age of the average Dave Carlson reader, I would recommend a Lipitor or five before visiting.
Metro Diner is open at 6:30 AM every day, closing at 8 PM on Sunday through Thursday and 8:30 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. Buy one of their t-shirts for $12 and get 10% your meal any time you wear it to the restaurant. Yes, some of them say “Activate the bananas” and yes, I bought one.